It’s Walt Disney World vacation time, yay! Time for later bedtimes, ice cream every day, quality family time and F-U-N! So of course, when your kids hear words like “educational” and “cultural” their eyes will glaze over almost immediately. Cue the moans and groans. For years, Epcot has gotten a bad wrap as being an “adults only” or “boring” park. This couldn’t be farther from the truth, Epcot is for “kids” of ALL ages and we are here to tell you a few awesome reasons why Epcot should not be skipped by you and your family!
Epcot is such a unique park in that it almost forces you and your family to relax and take a breath. The pace is slower than the hustle and bustle (and the “Hurry up and let’s make unforgettable family memories”) of Magic Kingdom. The walkways are larger, there’s a roominess there that allows you to really take in your surroundings, slow down and let the inevitable “building a perfect vacation” stress melt away. It is true that Epcot is designed to appeal to your taste buds. There are over 40 eateries at Epcot and no shortage of unique and flavorful options. I hear ya, there’s the “my kids are picky eaters” argument. We have all been there (there was a period of time when mine lived off of shredded cheese) and I promise you Epcot has ALL eaters and all families in mind when they designed their landscape of flavors. Your family can dine around the world, dining on cuisines that are not readily accessible in your hometown or play it safe and hit some delicious comfort food. You will find it all at Epcot, and the best part is dessert, is no shortage of mouthwatering meal finales in Epcot.
Many times families are tempted to skip Epcot because they feel it likes the “thrill” appeal and doesn’t have any attractions for kids to ride or to hold their attention. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Epcot has 11 legit attractions-we aren’t counting movies or exhibits. Of those 11, eight are absolutely family friendly. That means there are eight attractions that your ENTIRE family can experience together without fear of a “I’m not tall enough” meltdown! Even better, of those eight, 5 of those attractions are completely kiddie squeal worthy, they will love these attractions and beg to go back! Kids LOVE the surprising interaction at “Turtle Talk with Crush.” (Not much is cooler than Crush speaking directly to your child!) That’s just the tip of the conch shell…there are “The Seas with Nemo & Friends,” “Frozen Ever After” (I teared up first time riding that one), “Journey into the Imagination with Figment”, “Gran Fiesta Tour” and the “Pixar Short Film Festival.” These attractions are tailor made for kids, and they all take you into the refreshing air conditioning for fun and a chance to recharge your batteries. This doesn’t even touch on the rides for kids over 40 inches tall which include the ever popular “Soarin” and “Test Track.” Bigger kids will love to blastoff with “Mission Space.” (Guests must be at least 44 inches to ride.) Don’t make the mistake in thinking Epcot doesn’t have thrills and fun, it will certainly surprise you if you give it a chance.
We all know that characters are an exceptional piece of the Walt Disney World vacation puzzle. Break out your autograph books and get your kiddos ready for some of the best character interactions that they will experience at any of the parks. Epcot is home to some of the most beloved characters that Disney has to offer. Kids can have some one on one time with new favorites like Baymax, Joy, Sadness and of course don’t forget Anna and Elsa. (Those gals never disappoint, Anna continues to be one of our favorite character meet and greets of all time.) They can also have some quality face time with beloved classics like Mulan, Mary Poppins, Alice, Belle, Snow White, Aurora, Mickey, Minnie and all their pals. It’s so fun to be able to visit with these many of these characters in their “home” countries. What a sneaky dose of geography when kids get to see sweet Belle (in her lovely peasant blue dress) hanging out in France, or stumble across Snow White (and sometimes a Dwarf friend!) in Germany. It can really create a sense of belonging when kids meet a favorite character and then take a moment to “walk in their shoes” through a snapshot village of what life may have looked like for them.
While you’re strolling through the World Showcase don’t let your littles doze off in the stroller yet. There’s so much more than just characters for the kids to enjoy as you travel effortlessly from country to country. A wonderful way for your kids to get the most out of the World Showcase is by visiting the various “Kidcot” stations in each country. (Look for the signage, it’s well marked, or ask a Cast Member to point you in the right direction.) In the Kidcot areas kids will find an adorable activity to color (typically a Duffy fan) and have stamped with a stamp unique to each country. Cast Members will also teach children how to say “Hello” in their native language and may also show them how to write their names. The interactions are easy, natural and such a fun way for children to learn about these interesting places across the globe. We have always enjoyed the Passports that are available for purchase at Epcot shops. The passport comes with sticker images of landmarks in each Epcot country along with a place for Cast Members to place their country stamp and write special notes to the kids. It’s a fun keepsake and for our kids, filling these passports was the start of their love affair with Epcot. The passports took our family from spending a half day at Epcot to our kids begging to go back for more and more full days! Also take some time to just take in the sights of World Showcase, the kids will be amazed by the beauty of Canada’s rock formations, will enjoy finding their way through the UK’s hedge maze and love the miniature village in Germany.
There are also plenty of areas for little ones to burn off some of that enviable kiddie energy! Check out the play area in the Seas with Nemo and Friends pavilion, the “Space Base” playground and the “Advanced Training Lab” in the Mission Space pavilion. (You don’t need to ride the attraction to gain access to this awesome play area for kids of all ages.) Be sure to check out “Project Tomorrow” at the base of Spaceship Earth where kids can email pictures of their “future self” to the folks back home! Chances are if you are visiting Walt Disney World resorts it will be a hot day, take the kids over to the special water splash area on the walkway between Future World and the World Showcase. It’s a great place to splash around, get the wiggles out and cool off.
A great way to end your surprisingly fun and interactive day at Epcot is by taking in their famous nighttime fireworks show “Illuminations.” The cool thing about Illuminations is that unlike many other Disney nighttime shows it’s easily viewable in many areas of the park. Forget having to stake out a primo spot right in front of the castle or in front of the Chinese Theater, it’s a very different, less crowded, less stressful scene at Epcot. It’s a beautiful fireworks display with a laser story and distinctive music accompanying the show.
Our family was so glad we finally took the day to dig a little deeper and see what a hidden gem Epcot really is. What has gone from almost being an after thought park for us is now something we look forward to seeing and experiencing year after year. There are so many wonderful and fun things to experience at Epcot, and shhhh…don’t tell the kids, but they may actually learn something, and like it! (Insert evil laugh here___.)